Charlotte Observer: Motel, Neighbors Talk Over Fence Idea
04.22.12 Waterman Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic, but foot traffic from the troublesome Charlotte Inn hotel is still a problem for those living in the Commonwealth Park neighborhood. They would like the hotel sealed off from the neighborhood by a fence. Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver. Residents in east Charlotte are mulling an old-fashioned solution to a motel that they say causes trouble in their neighborhood. Residents of the Commonwealth Park neighborhood want to put a fence between their homes and the Charlotte Inn on the Independence Expressway. The potential barrier - still only a hypothetical solution because city transportation officials haven't signed off on it - would prevent pedestrians from entering the Commonwealth Park neighborhood on Waterman Avenue, which connects the neighborhood to the motel just east of Briar Creek Road. A barrier already prevents vehicles from cutting through the neighborhood. Lt. Robert Dance, who oversees police activity in that part of the Eastway Division, says using city resources to build a fence to keep crime out of the neighborhood is a novel approach. Finding a lasting solution to crime in the area around the motel is difficult. Rooms at the motel rent for about $160 per week, Dance said. "Most of the people who stay there are transient or people who are in transition between drug rehabilitation centers or just getting out of jail or just people down on their luck," said Dance, who came up with the idea for a fence. "We've made a lot of arrests. We've went in there and done large operations but it's just a revolving door. Every time we evict someone, there's someone to take their place." The people who live in Commonwealth Park say drug dealers ply their wares and prostitutes solicit just feet away from their tidy yards and tire swings. Addicts sometimes wander through the neighborhood, committing property crimes for money. "Drugs, prostitutes, gunshots, thug-looking guys. They had a big bust this morning when I drove to work. They were executing an arrest warrant. It's really quite a show sometimes," said Jason Van Buren, who is spearheading an effort to start a neighborhood watch in Commonwealth Park. He's also trying to get the motel shut down. Neighbors have started a Facebook page and a petition through change.org that neighbors intend to send to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. The petition had nearly 200 signatures Sunday. The hotel "persists as the number one safety concern for residents throughout the neighborhood, particularly those living within earshot, effectively lowering their standard of life in an otherwise charming community," part of the petition reads. The Facebook page even includes a picture of the home of the man who owns the Charlotte Inn, Anup Desai. Desai couldn't be reached for comment, but he told WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner, that he cooperates with the police, giving them lists of the motel's customers whenever they ask and checking the backgrounds of the people staying there. Dance said Desai cooperates with officers recommendations and has even raised his rates. He's also renovating the hotel. "We are doing our part," Desai told the station. "I would not say we are doing enough. I'm always in communication with the Police Department to see if there is anything else we can do to help." Copyright 2012 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.